The following is based on a talk given Nino Brown at a June 18 Party for Socialism and Liberation national webinar. Brown is a public school teacher and a leader in the Boston branch.
Rebellion is in the air. The masses of working class people are in motion not just here but also all over the world.
As I speak to you, all our brothers, sisters and siblings are being stolen from us by the racist police state and white vigilante violence of the United States. Just this year, at least 425 people have been murdered by the police with minimal to no repercussions. Since the dawn of the new millennium in 2000, at least 27,129 people have been killed by the police. Of course, there’s probably more, but the federal government doesn’t track when one of their hired thugs murder one of our people, so this is based on activist research.
We have witnessed more lynchings of our people, and not metaphorically. A Black man, Robert Fuller was found hanging from a trees in Palmdale California. In Atlanta Rayshard Brooks, 27 was shot down by the Atlanta police in a Wendy’s parking lot the day after his daughter’s birthday. In Tallahassee, TN, Black Lives Matter activist Oluwatoyin Salau was killed by a community member, Aaron Glee Jr.
The Black nation is hurting in so many ways right now. It seems we can never get a day’s rest without waking up to another horrible story of one of our people getting lynched or stolen from us too early. One way we can forward our struggle and heal, is through reflecting on the work of our ancestors in the struggle for their liberation from white supremacy and American colonial-capitalism.
I’d like to transition now into speaking a bit to the history of Juneteenth. So, what is Juneteenth? Some refer to as “the July 4th of Black America.” It certainly is a thousand times more relevant and revolutionary than July 4th for Black people. In 1776, the majority of Black people were still legally enslaved and tactically supported the British against their white American slave-owners. The defeat of the British actually returned many escaped slaves into bondage, and the Constitution, written thereafter, protected the slave system for another 90 years.
It took another war, the Civil War—the bloodiest war in U.S. history—and the mass intervention of Black people in their own history, for the principles of the American Revolution to have any real meaning for us.
All real revolutionaries in this country celebrate Juneteenth on June 19, and other countries as well. It was on that day in 1865 that the last enslaved African was set free from the captivity of chattel slavery.
This a day should be a federal holiday, yet racist -in-chief Donald Trump tried to call for a campaign rally on that day in Tulsa, OK, the site of one of this country’s worst race riots in 1921 that resulted in the destruction of a prosperous Black town known forever as “Black Wall Street.”
That Donald Trump tried to call a political rally on this sacred day, in this holy site of Black history, and during such an unprecedented fight in the struggle for Black Liberation and fundamental social justice, is truly disgusting and should turn the stomachs of any progressive minded person. Instead of working to jail the killer cops, he gloats about the need to be firm and crack down hard, painting our people as thugs. He refuses to meet any of the demands like defunding the police, while the billionaire class walks away with billions in federal relief dollars. This is during a full pandemic, where the U.S. is the epicenter.
However, due to righteous resistance from our movement, pressure from the hundreds of thousands of people, in the mass movement to end racism against police brutality and thus capitalism, Trump called off his rally and postponed it to the next day. This is a victory that we should take, but there still more work to be done.
Unresolved issues from the past impact today’s struggle
What we are seeing today are the compounded contradictions of hundreds of years of racist and capitalist oppression. Struggles remain unfinished from the post Civil War era, the post-Depression era, the post-Civil Rights and the Black Power era. Contradictions remain unresolved from the fall of the Soviet Union, from the neo-liberalization of our entire economy. All these unfinished struggles and unresolved contradictions have been compounding each other. So it makes sense that we have this explosion today.
In a major international development, hundreds of thousands of people in more than 60 countries have taken to the streets—in Africa, Europe, across different continents, to address racism and declare solidarity with the African American struggle. Hundreds of thousands of people worldwide are drawing the parallels with their own government’s racist practices. That is the true internationalism. These demonstrations have also been markedly multinational and led by razor-sharp young Black people, with actions continuing to grow by the day, whether or not the media covers it.
Over the last four decades, under U.S. governments led by both Democrats and Republicans, police departments and prisons have become highly militarized tools for the continued suppression of the Black liberation movement and the disposal of the large number of unemployed and underemployed Black workers who have been rendered unnecessary under imperialism.
Imperialism’s reliance on state repression, and its dwindling good bag of privileges, has also proletarianized once middle-class aspiring white youth and other social groups to reject their state overseers and join the call for an end to policing as we know it.
It raises an interesting question. Which way forward?
Gains can be won if we stay in the street, united, and with a clear understanding of our enemy. While we call for justice for our slain brothers, sisters and siblings, we also point to the system that has us going back into the streets time and time again demanding the police be held accountable. However, when we move out of the streets and pigeonhole ourselves to simply the ballot box, we misunderstand how American democracy works: it doesn’t. America is not a democracy.
This rebellion is revealing to us is how just very thin the veil of democratic trappings–of civil rights and liberties actually is—rights that were won through blood, fire, and much sacrifice. This rebellion is revealing the fascistic nature of so-called U.S. democracy. How can it be otherwise when in a single week we see lynchings of people of color in multiple states, the national guard called out against peaceful protesters and beating everyone upside their heads: Black, white, young and old?
Right here in Boston we have victims of police brutality and terror such as Terrence Coleman, Dennis Reynoso, Ross Batista, Burrell ‘Bo’ Ramsey-White and Usaamah Rahim, who are yet to receive justice. Families need justice and the killer cops should be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law for their senseless murders. And we’re only going to get justice by taking the streets, despite what the Democrats or anyone else will tell you.
Boston also has a police budget that dwarfs all of our items on our city budget. The police budget grows every year, and now stands at $414 million dollars not including the $60 million for police overtime. Meanwhile public schools face budget cuts, teachers are being laid off, the cost of housing skyrockets, basic social services are always on the chopping block.
On June 12, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh announced a proposal to reallocate $12 million from the proposed Boston Police Department overtime budget to community programs. However, this is less than 3 percent of the full budget of the police department! Social services must be fully funded! It is completely rational why many are in the streets demanding that cities defund the police. They consume too much of our tax dollars for little in return but brutality and lack of accountability.
In the PSL we recognize and stand in solidarity with these just demands and connecting them with what safe communities actually need. It’s not the police that people need, its fully funded social services, its health care, its education, it’s housing, its all the things that would be in a socialist program.
We stand in solidarity with all Black lives and all victims of police state terror. As Oluwatoyin Salau, who was only 19 years old and a burgeoning leader in this new wave of Black-led revolt against the racist capitalist state reminds us: “We are doing this for our brothers and our sisters who got shot but we are doing this for every Black person.”
Our party has been in the forefront of this national revolt against racism. We recognized that the struggle for Black freedom and liberation is at the core of the class struggle against the capitalist system and the struggle for the socialist reorganization of society. That is what the PSL is about. If that interests you I encourage you to look us up on the web, read our literature, and think of signing up to be a member, because revolution is on our agenda.